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Healthy Habits

Helping your teen manage stress

As children get older, they will likely experience different sources of stress than they did earlier in their lives.
4 minute read
April 30, 2021
Hazel Team
The editorial staff at Hazel are a diverse group of writers and professionals.

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We’re wrapping up Stress Awareness month by focusing on members of your family that may be especially vulnerable to stress: teens. If you have teens or pre-teens in your family, you know that this age can be challenging for your child. For our final Stress Awareness article, our team discusses which stressors are common for teens, and we share practical strategies for helping your teen navigate these feelings.

Social impact on teen stress

Like younger children, teens often stress about school, conflicts with friends or peers, family issues, taking on too many activities, negative feelings about themselves, and changes in their bodies. Many of these emotions are very common and are part of growing up. As children get older, they will likely experience different sources of stress than they did earlier in their lives. 

In addition to the stress younger children experience, teens and pre-teens report feeling stressed about their future and the state of the world. Studies have shown that teens are more likely than younger children to become stressed by events outside of their home. A 2018 survey found that teens and young adults  (age 15-21) worry significantly about social issues in the news, including gun violence and school shootings, suicide rates, race, climate change, treatment of immigrants, and sexual harassment. 

Pandemic impact on teen stress

In 2020, new research showed that the current state of the world has caused many teens to feel stressed about the uncertainty of their futures. In an annual survey about stress, the American Psychological Association found that the pandemic has been a significant source of stress for teens. In fact, 43% of teens say the level of stress in their life has increased over the past year. 

The survey also found that out of the teens surveyed: 

  • 50% feel that pandemic has severely disrupted their plans for the future.
  • 51% report that the pandemic makes planning for the future feel impossible.
  • 52% have less motivation to do school work.
  • 45% struggle to concentrate on school work

During the pandemic and beyond, it is critical for your family to work together to maintain your teen’s social, emotional, and mental health. You can practice these strategies to help manage stress and help your teen develop resilience for future challenges they may encounter in adulthood. 

 Six ways parents can manage stress for teens during the pandemic and beyond

1. Watch for good stress and bad stress.  
Some stress can be healthy and teach teens how to cope with their emotions effectively. However, untreated stress can develop into anxiety and have an impact on long-term physical and mental health. (See our blog for tips to spot the difference between stress and anxiety.)

2. Talk to your teen about stress.
If your teen is stressed about uncertainty due to the pandemic, you can remind them that they should not be afraid to step away from their prior plans to try something new or different. Ask open-ended questions about how your teen feels and allow them to talk freely about why they feel stressed. You can learn about active listening strategies here

3. Model stress management skills. 

Like younger children, teens may replicate the behaviors they see in their household. You can lead by example by showing an appropriate reaction to stress. Show them how you handle your stress.  (ex: draw, read, meditate, deep breathing, take a long walk). You can this easy practice this breathing technique with your child:

  • Relax your neck and shoulders.
  • Keeping your mouth closed, inhale slowly through your nose for 2 seconds.
  • Pucker your lips and exhale slowly by blowing air through your mouth for four seconds.
  • Repeat 4-5 times.

4. Practice the rule of “three good things.”

Set time aside at the end of each day to reflect on three good things that happened. These good things can be significant, like getting an A on a test, or small, like getting laundry done. This activity can put things in perspective, help decrease anxiety, and build emotional resiliency. 

5. Set realistic expectations for your teen and encourage them to do the same.
Encourage your teen to do their best, but give them space when they don’t have the energy or motivation. Even when it’s not a global pandemic, life can become stressful. Providing teens with flexibility can keep them from feeling hopeless or overwhelmed.

6. Communicate that help is available if they need it.
If stress becomes overwhelming, you can help your teen access mental health services during and after the pandemic. This can include telehealth services, like Hazel, your primary care provider, or a school counselor. If you need help locating affordable resources, check here.  

Seven ways teens can learn to manage their own stress

Share these strategies to help your teen manage stress and learn resilience during stressful times.

1. Keep to a schedule.
Knowing what to expect each day will lower stress and can help you manage your time more effectively. A routine can make you feel more in control of your daily responsibilities and goals. Plan times for doing schoolwork, eating, relaxing, and connecting with friends. Also, be sure to make time for an adequate amount of sleep every night. 

2. Eat a healthy diet.
A balanced diet gives your body the nutrients it needs to function correctly. If you lack nutrition, you may be more likely to get sick, feel tired, and have overall poor health. During times of stress, avoid excess caffeine, which can increase feelings of anxiety and agitation.

3. Stay physically active
Exercise is proven to boost moods and can help reduce stress levels and build emotional resilience. When you feel stressed, try taking a long walk, dancing for a few songs, or running around the school track. 

4. Learn relaxation strategies.
Yoga, stretching, and breathing exercises can be helpful to reset and take a break from stress. Try this breathing exercise: 

  • Take a deep breath to the count of three.
  • Breath out slowly to the count of six. Focus on letting out as much air as you can.
  • Repeat. Start with two minutes, but you can keep doing it until you start to feel better.

5. Take a break from stressful situations.
When you feel stressed, try focusing on something else for a while. Activities like listening to music, drawing, writing, or spending time with a pet can reduce stress. It may also help to unplug from social media and turn off notifications.

6. Decrease negative self-talk.
Challenge any negative thoughts you may have about yourself with alternative, positive thoughts. Learn to feel good about doing a competent job rather than demanding perfection from yourself and others.

7. Connect with others.
Conversation can be a powerful tool. Talking with someone you trust about your feelings can relieve stress and promote resilience. 

Families, if you are concerned that your teen is struggling with stress or anxiety, you may want to seek help from a professional. If Hazel is available in your school, you can reach out to schedule a visit. Our doctors can help connect your family to the right help.

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Parent Story
A father was concerned when his son was showing COVID-19 symptoms. His school uses Hazel, so he was able to contact a Hazel doctor from home.

The Hazel provider recommended he get a COVID-19 test and shared resources to help find a testing center in their area. The father was eager to help his son feel better and appreciated being able to quickly get answers and advice.
Nurse Story
A student came into the nurse's office with a sprained ankle. After icing her foot, she still was in pain, so the nurse called Hazel. Thankfully, her family had provided consent for over-the-counter pain relief because she was able to take some medicine and return to class feeling better.

After the visit, the Hazel provider reached out to the school nurse to check on the student’s injury. The nurse shared that the student’s ankle was improving, and she appreciated the follow-up.
Parent Story
A mother noticed her son was getting low on his asthma medication. She tried to schedule a visit with his doctor to refill his prescription, but no appointments were available. She didn’t want her son to run out of medicine, so she reached out to Hazel.

The provider was able to send the refill to a local pharmacy within one day. The mother was happy that her son would have the medicine he needed. She was also amazed at how easy and fast the entire process was.
Student Story
A student was coughing and sneezing a lot, but her family wasn’t sure if she was sick or had allergies. Thankfully, her school used Hazel, and they could get an answer.

After talking with the school nurse and the Hazel provider about her symptoms and medical history, the student was happy to find out it was likely allergies. She got some medicine and returned to class feeling better.
Student Story
During the pandemic, a high school student was having a hard time coping. She was sad about COVID-19 impacting her senior year, and she was worried about the state of the world. The student was also struggling with some personal conflicts, and she felt she didn't have the right support at home. After discussing her feelings, a Hazel doctor connected her with resources that she described as “life-changing.” She was very grateful and shared that she didn't know where to go for help before Hazel.
Parent Story
Shortly after COVID-19 began, a student began to develop tics. Her parents took her to a neurologist, but they wanted to get her into counseling as well. The student’s mother was having a hard time finding answers to her questions and didn’t know where to start the process, so she turned to Hazel.

The Hazel doctor listened as the mother shared her concerns and frustrations. Hazel reassured her that they would find the right services for her child. After the initial visit, the Hazel doctor partnered with the school counselor and the student’s mother to identify resources and counseling services that are a good fit.
Student Story
A student came into the nurse’s office because his vision went blurry. The Hazel doctor looked at his eyes, but he did not see any injury. As he asked him questions about his symptoms, he started to sense that he was down about something. After a few minutes, the student shared that he was really sad because his mom was recently diagnosed with cancer. He explained that he feels worried, and it’s hard for him to focus.

Hazel called home, and the student’s mother confirmed her diagnosis. They discussed how to help manage the child’s stress, and Hazel offered to connect the child with counseling resources through the school. The mother was very grateful for the guidance and was eager to get her child help during a stressful time.
Counselor Story
Hazel Health has been integral this year in getting our students the mental health services needed to help them live healthy lives.  The staff has been attentive, prompt, and resourceful. There is an evident sense of caring for the work they do and the students they serve. It has been a pleasure partnering with Hazel Health in providing mental wellness for our Garland ISD families.